Jean Bleakney (née Kerr) was born in Newry in 1956, the daughter of a Border Customs Officer. Her family moved to Lisburn in 1973. She studied biochemistry at Queen’s University Belfast and worked in medical research for eight years. Following the birth of her second child, she chose to stay at home.
Fear and loathing of housework triggered an interest in gardening and, much to her surprise, the language of gardening. Having exhausted the appropriate section of the local library, she discovered, a few stacks along, Wendy Cope’s Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis. Interest piqued, she began putting words together and, in 1993, she started attending the weekly writing workshop at Queen’s.
Her first collection of poems, The Ripple Tank Experiment, was published in by Lagan Press in 1999, followed by The Poet’s Ivy (2003) and ions (2011). Her poems have appeared in various anthologies and in magazines including Poetry Ireland Review, The Rialto, THE SHOp, Metre, TLS and The Yellow Nib. Also online at several sites including Poetry Proper Vol, 2 , Poetry International and From The Fishouse.
She worked in a garden centre for over 20 years.
“I had no desire to write poems addressing the Troubles directly, but in the days following key events such as the IRA Ceasefire in 1994, and the atrocities of summer 1998, silence was not an option.”